Gays and Lesbians Given Permission to Stage First-Ever Sanctioned Rally in Belarus

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City authorities in Minsk have given gay activists clearance to stage a rally against homophobia in the Belarusian capital on Monday.

Previously Belarus authorities have always banned public events by LGBT community, which sees this permission as a “first” in the country.

“We have kept trying to get permission – and finally our perseverance has been rewarded” said Sergey Praded, one of the organisers.

The event was purposely organised for Monday – St. Valentine’s Day.

Ten different applications for a permit were made, all in different locations in the city. Four of the applications were successful.

“I already met with the police and the Ministry of Health and both confirmed that they will provide assistance during our event,” Mr. Praded, co-chair of IDAHO Belarus, said yesterday.

“We have now four options to conduct this action and we will quickly decide which place is more appropriate,” he added.

The event is organized by IDAHO Belarus, the local branch of the International Day Against Homophobia.

“For several months, we’ve been trying to get permission to stage a public action, but we always received negative answers,” Mr. Praded pointed out.

“This might be seen from abroad as a small step, but for us it’s a huge success,” he added.

Sergey Yenin was among the 12 participants who were arrested during Slavic Pride in Minsk last May. He was detained in custody for 48 hours and later released by a Court after receiving a fine for taking part in an unsanctioned event.

This significant change of policy of Belarusian authorities comes three months after Russia, Belarus’ main partner and neighbour, allowed first public action of gays and lesbians in St Petersburg last November.

“Last November, we managed to get first public action of LGBT community ever allowed in St Petersburg in Russia and now, this is the turn of Minsk in Belarus,” said Nikolai Alekseev, chief organiser of Moscow Pride.

“After years of campaigning on the issue of freedom of assembly we see that our efforts and pressure pay off. It also comes after we won against Russia on Moscow Pride ban at the European Court of Human Rights.

“Things are slowly improving.

“It proves once again that we follow the right strategy and that we should not wait and stay silent. We should force and take our rights,” he added.

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